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God's folded arms

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by Blindwatchmaker, Mar 5, 2021.

  1. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    Right now somewhere in the world, a five-year-old girl is minutes away from being brutally raped and murdered.
    God knows that this will happen (he is omniscient and therefore knows all facts about the past present and future).
    He could stop it (he is all-powerful).
    But instead, he folds his arms and watches it happen.

    The classic theodicy here is to invoke human free will as the reason for all the needless suffering. But of course, God could easily stop the crime without impinging on anyone's free will (he's a god after all). So that doesn't work.

    Another common response is that there is some greater good that comes out of five-year-olds being brutally raped and murdered. We just don't understand it. This is a dangerous argument because it supposes that the only way for the universe to get from its current state to the state of greater good MUST involve the rape and murder of a five-year-old.
    This would imply either that God is not powerful or clever enough to get to the state of greater good without the rape and murder of a five-year-old, or that it's specifically the rape and murder of a five-year-old that God wants. (There are no other options as the two conditions are mutually exclusive if God is omnipotent)

    So it follows that God must WANT the rape and murder of the five-year-old to take place as he is capable of stopping it but chooses not to.
    How do you square that with the claim of God as benevolent?
     
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  2. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    How would that happen, exactly?
     
  3. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    You don't think God could think of a way to stop a rape and murder from happening without interfering with free will?
    (This is the god that people credit with cancer remissions and finding parking spots at the shopping centre..)
    I can think of 20 off the top of my head!
    (Rapists car breaks down, delayed in traffic, gets stuck in the lift, trips over his shoelaces, can't get it up, the girl manages to get away, the neighbour runs out of sugar and knocks on the door, a fire drill
    etc etc)
     
  4. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I could be pompous and shout you down --"Who are you, O man" but when God says it, it is for a reason. To show not only do you not have the authority to judge him, or even to assess him, but that you simply don't know what you are talking about.

    You also make several false assumptions, the main one being that Omnipotence means ability to do something self-contradictory.

    But do you really think God would have any reason to do something that wasn't good? So where do you base good? And why think that what good God does cannot include what is bad for us to do, or hard for us to take? You are looking at this from your small world. Whether or not I can justify God is irrelevant. You are in no position to judge God.

    Our consciences tell us this is good and that is bad. But God is above all that. He is God -- not one of us.
     
  5. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    No. I am NOT assuming that omnipotence means doing self-contradictory things.
    Omnipotence as defined by modern theologians is taken to mean the ability to do all logically possible things (so excludes square circles etc). That's the usage I'm employing here.
    Nothing in what I have suggested by omnipotence is logically inconsistent. That argument is not applicable.

    So your reply is simply a recapitulation of the second theodicy I mentioned:
    ie God has his own special reasons for wanting little girls sodomised and killed.
    But as I said, this implies a lack of imagination on his part.
    This argument necessarily means that God's power is limited because he can't figure out a way to fulfil those special reasons without concomitant pain and suffering.
    Again, there is nothing logically self-contradictory about this.
    The universe is currently in State A. God wants it to be in State B.
    And he is not powerful or creative enough to get there without rape and murder.

    Your final argument is that our own sense of right or wrong is irrelevant. Only God knows what it best.
    On that basis, it would follow that every evil thing is actually a step towards some greater good.
    This would mean we all have a moral obligation to rape and murder as many five-year-olds as possible as each crime would actually be GOOD but just for reasons we simple sinners can't understand.

    Some people use the problem of evil as an argument against God's exisitence.
    I don't think that works.
    But unless we define benevolence as including the indifference to huge a amounts of suffering, it seems problematic to assume such a god to be good in any meaningful way.
     
  6. Richard Mulcahy

    Richard Mulcahy Active Member

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    Found this, hope it helps...

    God’s Response to Evil
    Alan Hultberg — May 02, 2016

    A while ago, I got a letter from a friend (whom I’ll call “Mary”) struggling with why God allows evil. Some people had told her that God was working through terrible tragedies to produce a greater good (Rom. 8:28). Others had told her that Satan was the cause of evil and that greater faith and use of her authority in Christ would deliver her from difficulties. Mary found little comfort in these well-meaning professions, and in fact was beginning to think that God was either cruel, impotent, or worse, non-existent, a classic case of the problem of evil.

    What follows is my response to her questioning. I trust it will be helpful to you as well, or at least get you thinking more deeply about God’s response to evil.



    Dear Mary,

    Before I begin a response to your questions, I want to let you know that my heart grieves for your situation and that I understand why you feel so hurt. I don’t want to minimize that grief in what follows. Also, I want to offer this caveat. These are questions that have been pondered for a long time, and I'm sure that many, better students of the Bible than myself would be able to give you much better-considered answers. If you’re open to it, I’ll see if I can suggest some good resources in the next few weeks.

    So, here goes.

    Both positions you shy away from – that God directly causes bad things to happen in the lives of people in order to produce some good result and that Satan is the cause of all suffering – are vast over-generalizations and for that reason off the mark. You are right to be leery of them. There are four reasons that I can think of for bad things happening in the world.

    (1) By far the most common reason is that the world is fallen. It is not a perfect place; death and decay are fundamental operating principles in the present. Sickness, disease, natural disasters, accidents, and other tragedies are natural consequences of a fallen world (Luke 13:1-5). Though God could chose to intervene to avert every tragedy, he doesn't. Rather, he intervened decisively to redeem the fallen world entirely but incrementally (at the same time identifying with its suffering [Heb. 2:9-10, 18]). He redeems fallen souls now, but he will ultimately restore the physical universe (including our physical bodies) in the future (Rom. 8:18-23), after Jesus returns. That is, the world isn't the way God intends it to be, but he has acted to begin to rectify that. Until then, we will suffer the inevitable consequences of living in this fallen world.

    (2) The other most common reason for bad things happening in the world is that people are sinners, flawed in their ability to think and act in ways that promote God's values and virtues. People regularly by nature make bad, self-satisfying, or outright evil decisions and reap the harmful consequences or else suffer the effects of other people's sinful choices. This can happen on the personal level (like getting lung cancer from years of smoking or being robbed) or on an impersonal, systemic level (like dying of malnutrition due to corrupt or inept policy decisions). Again, God could choose to intervene in each individual instance, but he doesn't. Rather he got to the root of the problem at the cross and will ultimately right all wrongs in the final judgment and eternal state.

    (3) There is real, personal, and malevolent evil in the world. Demons do cause harm. People expose themselves to demonic activity in their sinful decisions, and Satan tries to thwart movement toward God (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 Pet 5:8). I doubt that, compared to the above two causes, a significant percentage of “bad things” are due to demonic activity, but it does happen nonetheless. Like the above, God has dealt with the devil at the cross and will ultimately destroy him at the return of Christ (Rev. 12:11; Rev. 20:10). In the mean time, he still roams about seeking someone to devour.

    (4) Some tragedies happen as a result of God's direct judgment (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah). Again, it seems to me the Bible indicates that this is a pretty rare occurrence.

    None of the first three of these sources of suffering are a direct result of God's action. In fact, they are all a direct result of opposition to God. God can avert any of them in his power, but—and here we're left with the mystery of it in Scripture—in his wisdom he chooses not to. Rather in his ultimate sovereignty he allows these things to occur even though the cross demonstrates that he takes no delight in them. (As we prepare for Easter, it is interesting to note the dynamic interplay of God's sovereignty and human responsibility for the “evil” of the cross. On the one hand, things happen exactly as God intended in order to accomplish his purposes [e.g., Mark 10:33-34, 45; 14:18, 27, 30] and yet the players were “sinful men” [Mark 14:41; Jn 13:27] acting sinfully and with full culpability [Mark 14:21]. God's sovereignty and the free will of sinful men are not incompatible.) We might speculate as to why God allows them; perhaps, for instance, he lets us lie awhile in the bed we made for ourselves (Gal. 6:7-8). Certainly he allows some tragedies into the lives of people to cause growth (2 Cor. 12:7-9; James 1:2-4) or to get their attention or to glorify himself (John 9:1-3). He can and often does bring lots of good out of tragedy. But I wouldn't presume to think that every tragedy is allowed, much less directly caused, by God in order to achieve some direct good result for us, or at least any good that we'll ever know about this side of heaven. (The point of the story of Job is essentially that.) I think that, for the most part, God merely allows the sinful and fallen world to go along apace until the day Christ returns, and that he expects us to deal with it with the resources he left us: prayer, fellowship, the Holy Spirit. In the lives of Christians, suffering is an opportunity to learn to trust God and rely on him for strength and to bear one another's burdens. It is an opportunity to represent his values and virtues to the world, personally, politically, and socially.

    Which brings up the issue of prayer. Why pray? Again, the Bible only gives us glimpses into prayer and its effects. God hears our prayers and responds to them (Prov. 15:29; John 15:16). We are exhorted “always to pray and not faint” (Luke 18:1). And yet he certainly doesn't just jump whenever we say, “Jump!” The entire Biblical witness testifies to this; God is king and sovereign, not we. Thus we pray according to his will (or for his will or in the name of Jesus; 1 John 5:14; John 15:16; Matt. 6:10); that is, though in prayer we are in effect asking God to align his will with ours, part of the actual purpose of prayer is to align our will with God's (Mark 14:36). (Obviously, prayer is more than requests and has other purposes than merely making our desires known to God, but those other areas are beside the present point. By the way, "God's will" also qualifies our "authority" in Christ to heal and cast out demons, though that is also an issue of giftedness by the Holy Spirit that I won't get into here. We can talk more later.)

    So, does God just ignore our requests and do whatever he wants? No, I don't think the Bible will allow that conclusion. Though this goes beyond the biblical witness, it seems to me that prayer is something of a condescension on God's part. God condescends to consider our requests as he works out his will, and he desires to meet our requests if he can. He doesn't have to, but he allows us to interact with him in this way. I imagine God is like a parent who is in charge and whose agenda is the main thing. When a child asks a parent for something, the parent considers whether they can accomplish the agenda and still grant the request (including knowing whether granting the request will really be a loving thing to do or not). The parent wants to give good gifts to the child, but their main aim is not merely to respond to the child's every request. This analogy I think does justice to the Biblical data (e.g., when Abraham “bargains” with God in Gen 18, God's purpose is still the bottom line, though God is willing to go quite a ways towards Abe's request). When I pray, I am putting my trust in the goodness and wisdom of God (Matt. 7:11; Gen. 18:25). What makes it difficult is when God doesn't respond to simple and exemplary requests like taking away nightmares. I'm not sure why, except that, generally speaking, as stated above, he seems to have decided not to intervene in the world to avert most cases of individual suffering, presumably not because the individual nightmares of a little girl accomplishes his purposes for her but because wholesale intervention in suffering undermines his purposes for the world. Unfortunately, the Bible just doesn't tell us why. It does say that God is concerned, but he chose to act globally at the cross, not individually. Perhaps again he expects us to intervene on his behalf, granting to us the obligation to be his hands and heart. It's tough to know and accept, but that is the best I can think of right now as I ponder what I know of Scripture. I'll try to think and study some more on it for you.

    I'm not sure how helpful (or new) any of the above is to you, but maybe it can get us started on a dialogue. The bottom line is, most suffering is the result of living in a fallen world and that God is concerned about it. But his concern manifested itself especially at the cross rather than frequent individual interventions. When he does chose to intervene, it is a result of his desire to love his children within the limits of his purposes, and when he doesn't chose to intervene, we must trust that he is still good and wise (á la Job). At the least, he may be granting us the opportunity and privilege to live out his power and love in our own and others' weaknesses.

    Let me know if I you'd like to dialogue any further.

    In Christ,

    Alan
     
  7. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I wonder why you invoke a rape and murder of a five year old. If your premise is correct, it should be equally applicable to ANY suffering or sin. If THAT is the case, then why is God not cruel for making us in the first place, and the natural decomposition of all things the norm?

    For what it is worth, I do not invoke free will, your first theodicy. I do claim will and actual choice, but free? --hardly!

    You said, and this is one of your self-contradictory statements: "This would imply either that God is not powerful or clever enough to get to the state of greater good" If this is his way 'to get to the state of greater good', then it is necessary. He has no wasted effort nor certainly wasted suffering, after all, though this is probably more than you can believe, the suffering is his, more than ours. You think his reasons for what he is doing need not include suffering. You are wrong. You don't know what he is doing, nor how to get there. Your second theodicy is a good one, though stated incompletely, as we don't know the end, nor his reasons for the means. The self-contradiction lies in the fact that God indeed is clever enough to figure out and design and accomplish everything it takes to do what he has in mind as a finished product. You imagine a logical reason he should be able to do a logically impossible thing, simply because you can't see what he is doing, and you don't like the way he is doing it.

    You said, "Another common response is that there is some greater good that comes out of five-year-olds being brutally raped and murdered. We just don't understand it. This is a dangerous argument because it supposes that the only way for the universe to get from its current state to the state of greater good MUST involve the rape and murder of a five-year-old." Correct. It must include all sadness, catastrophe, suffering and sin that will ever happen. It is not dangerous to consider it necessary, except to unreasoning self-important beings, such as might come up with the illogical conclusion you express here next.

    It is not ours to secure his overall plan. That is his alone. We are not to take the work of God into our hands to do what produces his finished product, if that means to disobey his command. It is enough that we do disobey what he has commanded, and he uses it for good.. It is not obedience to disobey. Thar is self-contradiction.

    The apostle Paul takes up your question:
    "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?God forbid!"
    But we do, and it does.

    So it is not obedience to increase God's overall good. That is absurd.
     
  8. Minister Monardo

    Minister Monardo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Right now somewhere in the world, there is a free thinking intellectual passing judgment on
    the ways of God. God is aware, because He is omniscient, and yet does nothing to prevent it,
    although He is omnipotent. Why do you think?
    Does this require logic, reason, or divine Wisdom?
    Proverbs 8
     
  9. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The problem is, logic and reason can also answer the question --just not to the satisfaction of those assuming incomplete notions. 'Divine wisdom', or so many think they have, brings many false (not to mention, illogical) notions too. God does not ask us to ignore logic, but not to trust our particular thinking. He doesn't even say not to think, but that our minds are not capable of seeing the whole story.

    After all, his divine nature is clearly seen even by the lost, so they are without excuse.

    We certainly are presumptuous beings.
     
  10. Minister Monardo

    Minister Monardo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I was simply thinking that someone with Divine Wisdom would not ask this question.
    Someone who loved the Lord and knew His Word already knows the answer, in many ways.
    For example
    :
    Romans 9:
    22
    What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which
    He had prepared beforehand for glory.

    So now we can use the logic that we have spoken of and ask:
    If the Lord has promised that He is preparing a place for us where there will be no sin and death,
    or rape, how exactly does that play out in your understanding if you do not live in a world of sin
    and death because He is preventing it?

    This involves completely ignoring or not believing in a day of Judgment,
    and the eternal implications.
    This is not about a greater good. It is perfect good, with no evil.
    The universe will have to wait, right along with the rest of us.

    Romans 8:
    18
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
    to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    19
    For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing
    of the sons of God.
    20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who
    subjected it in hope;
    21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption
    into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
     
  11. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    I don't know how many rapes and murders of five year olds these actually stop. "The girl manages to get away" is the desirable end result of one of the other seven that you mentioned, but she's going to need help. The neighbor might be helpful, but that could also count as an interference with free will.
     
  12. disciple Clint

    disciple Clint Well-Known Member

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    My question would be, if God began correcting all the evil in this world where would He stop. Is the scenario of the little girl more evil than many other things that happen in our fallen world? No doubt God could and would like to remove all evil from this world, so in fairness where should God stop, should man not suffer the consequences of his own actions? If God solves all problems then where is our opportunity to help each other? Would we need to have faith in God anymore to help us through our problems which are the result of our own disobedience, sinfulness, and living in a fallen world?
     
  13. Aussie Pete

    Aussie Pete Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If God wanted to remove all the evil from the world, he would have to remove all the people from the world. He may start with you.........He did that at least once - Noah's flood, and, I believe, a flood prior to Noah

    God does not will that man does evil. Man does that all on his own. God is patient, gracious, merciful and loving. You say that God could remove evil and yet respect man's free will. That's not the case.

    The evil on this earth has consequences. For now, mankind thinks it can get away with it. That is not true. God gets to judge everything that anyone has said or done.

    You accusations against God are baseless and false. The same God sent His own Son to die for the wicked, so that they could be saved. There is no greater love. God created the universe with a few words. There is no greater power. I for sure do not understand all things. But I do know Him who does. I trust Him with every aspect of my life. If something does not make sense, I ask Him for understanding. If I need to know, He will (and has) tell me.
     
  14. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    That's a desperate argument.
    God could easily just intervene by causing a tree to fall in the road so the rapist doesn't get to the girl in time.
    etc
     
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  15. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    That is silly.
    Did God screw up his first design (pre Noah) and say'Oh dear, I thought that was going to turn out better. Let me just kill everything (all the babies and animals too) and start again and see if I can do a better job next time."?
     
  16. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    All of these objections to the problem of evil anthropomorphise God, making him sound like a limited mortal struggling to get things right in a very challenging world and hoping that things pan out ok or he might be sad.

    You can't have it both ways. Is he a god or a man?

    It is not consistent to define a god as having all (logically possible) powers and knowledge and then impose arbitrary limits on those powers when convenient in order to preserve the coherency of doctrinal ideas.

    If God specifically wants suffering to happen, then he is evil.
    If he doesn't want it to happen then he seems inept.
    For those blaming Satan for all this inconvenience, does Satan cause childhood leukaemia? Ebola?
    Covid?...

    Is God powerless to stop Satan or happy to let him do his thing?

    Can you see how to an outsider this all all looks like a rather badly written fantasy?
     
  17. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    If God exists, he gave us brains capable of making moral Judgements.
    Of course I'm going to pass judgement on any being who chooses to have children raped and murdered when it would be trivially easy (given infinite power) to prevent it.
    Such a being would be evil and ANY decent person should judge that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  18. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    Another thing to add, is that if we accept that all this pain and suffering and death NEEDS to happen as part of God's plan, he is even more cruel as he could communicate the reasons WHY that is the case and bring relief to billions who struggle to make sense of it.
    But no. He chooses to remain hidden and by extension hide the reasons for all the suffering.
    Your position must then be that the additional suffering caused by the lack of explanation is also part of Gods sadistic plan.

    (I say sadistic as a sadist is one who chooses the suffering of others as would be the case here.)
     
  19. Minister Monardo

    Minister Monardo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    No one said anything about judgment upon rapists, or those who would allow this evil as acceptable.
    My statement was clearly that you are making judgments against God, so why dance around the
    statement? Personally, I would give the death penalty for child abuse, but I am not the judge, and
    the One whom The Father has assigned to make ALL Judgment will set these things right before your eyes. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

    Keep talking, all you are doing is demonstrating your complete lack of knowledge about the
    Word, Will, and Work of the Father, and His Son, Christ Jesus.
     
  20. Minister Monardo

    Minister Monardo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    He is not hidden, He has made Himself known by sending His Son for us.
    Suffering in the world says nothing of God being sadistic.
    You would dare to take the ways of man and use them to condemn God?
    This is the thinking of a reprobate mind.
    It is your lack of understanding that finds a lack of explanation.

    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness,
    but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all
    should come to repentance.

    If you will not repent, then when He comes to judge the world in righteousness,
    where will you hide?
     
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